ROCKETLAB cannot assume responsibility, in any manner whatsoever, for the use readers make of the information presented herein or the devices resulting therefrom.

Comments regarding this booklet should be sent to:

Note: The following address has not been verified and may not be current, since it was the address listed in the original text from 1967.
ROCKETLAB Post Office Box 1139 Florence, Oregon 97439

Exhaust plume from small 75-lb thrust water cooled liquidfuel rocket engine. Propellants are gaseous oxygen and methyl alcohol. Official U. S. Navy photograph.

Note: Photograph mentioned was not included in this PDF version due to it’s poor quality (my copy of the book is pretty ragged) and it appears to be the quality of a Xerox copy to start.

Copyright „ 1967 by Leroy J. Krzycki Printed in the United States of America First printing: March 1967
Second printing: March 1971 ISBN 9600-1980-4 PDF version created by Tim Patterson,



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instead. 4 . and safe operating procedures for small liquid-fuel rocket engines. fabrication procedures. is that the amateur is not accustomed to high pressure devices operating near material temperature limits. and good test equipment operating in a safe manner. usually and simply. filled with devices and gadgets operating at low pressures and at low thermal energy levels. His normal every day life is. When then do so many amateur rocket engines fail or cause injury? The reason.FOREWORD The rocket engine is a relatively simple device in which the propellants are burned and the resulting high pressure gases are expanded through a specially shaped nozzle to produce thrust. careful workmanship. Gas pressurized propellant tanks and simple propellant flow controls make operation of a small liquid-fuel rocket engine about as simple as operating an automobile engine. With proper design. The purpose of this publication is to provide the serious amateur builder with design information. the amateur can build small liquid-fuel rocket engines which will have hours of safe operating life. test equipment requirements.

thereby imparting momentum to the engine. as shown in Figure 1. The propellants usually consist of a liquid oxidizer and a liquid fuel. A typical rocket motor consists of the combustion chamber. In the combustion chamber the propellants chemically react (burn) to form hot gases which are then accelerated and ejected at high velocity through a nozzle. This is the same phenomenon which pushes a garden hose backward as water squirts from the nozzle or makes a gun recoil when fired. Momentum is the product of mass and velocity. The combustion chamber is where the burning of propellants takes place at high pressure. the nozzle. and the injector. BUILD and TEST SMALL LIQUID-FUEL ROCKTET ENGINES INTRODUCTION A liquid rocket engine employs liquid propellants which are fed under pressure from tanks into a combustion chamber. Figure 1 Typical Rocket Motor 5 .HOW to DESIGN. The thrust force of a rocket motor is the reaction experienced by the motor structure due to the ejection of the high velocity matter.

The function of the nozzle is to convert the chemicalthermal energy generated in the combustion chamber into kinetic energy.000 to 12. a very high gas velocity is desirable.000 feet per second) can be obtained in rocket nozzles. Figure 2 DeLeval Nozzle 6 . high pressure. Since thrust is the product of mass (the amount of gas flowing through the nozzle) and velocity. and the high temperature resulting from. Gas velocities from on to two miles per second (5. The chamber must also be of sufficient length to ensure complete combustion before the gases enter the nozzle. Nozzles which perform this seemingly amazing feat are called DeLaval nozzles (after their inventor) and consist of a convergent and divergent section. the combustion process.The chamber must be strong enough to contain the high pressure generated by. high temperature gas in the combustion chamber into high velocity gas of lower pressure and temperature. Because of the high temperature and heat transfer. the chamber and nozzle are usually cooled. as shown in Figure 2. The minimum flow area between the convergent and divergent section is called the nozzle throat. The nozzle converts the slow moving.

liquid rather than gaseous oxygen is used as the oxidizer. reasonably safe and easy to handle. The nozzle is usually made long enough (or the exit area is great enough) such that the pressure in the combustion chamber is reduced at the nozzle exit to the pressure existing outside the nozzle. Based on experience. toxic.000° F. Gas pressures are easily regulated with commercial regulators and gas flow rate is easily controlled with commercially available valves.000° – 6. requires propellants that are readily available. and expensive. If the rocket engine is being fired at sea level this pressure is about 14. 7 . ROCKETLAB recommends the use of gaseous oxygen as the oxidizer and a hydrocarbon liquid as the fuel. Gaseous oxygen can be readily and inexpensively obtained in pressurized cylinders in almost any community because of its use in oxy-acetylene welding. The amateur builder of rocket engines on the other hand.7 pounds per square inch (psi).7 psi. In these systems. and inexpensive. Most of the propellant combinations listed are dangerous. Since the gases in the combustion chamber may be at 5. the gas (and cylinder) is safe to handle for test stand use. PROPELLANT CHOICE Liquid rocket engines can burn a variety of oxidizer and fuel combinations. The propellants are used in the Atlas missile and the Saturn space booster. The drop in temperature of the combustion gases flowing through the nozzle is high and can be as much as 2.000° – 3. If the engine is designed for operation at high altitude the exit pressure is less than 14. some of which are tabulated in Table I. the combustion flame is readily visible.The flow area at the end of the divergent section is called the nozzle exit area.000° F. They give good performance. to be detailed later. With reasonable precautions. however. the gas temperature at the nozzle exit is still about 3. and their combustion temperature presents an adequate design challenge to the amateur builder.000° F.

that the propellants to be used in amateur liquid-fuel rocket engines are gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel. Mixture ratio is defined as the weight flow of oxidizer divider by the weight flow of fuel.Hydrocarbon fuels. and assume. Safety precautions are already known by most responsible individuals due to wide use of the fuels in internal combustion engines for automobiles and power equipment. All subsequent sections of this publication will refer to. are readily available in any community. The flame temperature of hydrocarbon fuels burned in gaseous oxygen at various combustion chamber pressures is shown in Figure 3 for the stoichiometric mixture ratio. such as gasoline and alcohol. or 8 .

9 . If a lower flame temperature is desired it is usually better to have more fuel present than oxidizer.Figure 3 Flame temperature versus chamber pressure at stoichiometric mixture ratio When a stoichiometric ratio is achieved just enough oxygen is present to chemically react with all of the fuel. Figure 4 indicates how the flame temperature varies when combustion chamber pressure is held at a constant value and the mixture ratio is allowed to vary.” This condition is less severe on the rocket engine than burning at stoichiometric oxygen-rich conditions. the highest flame temperature is achieved under these conditions. this is known as burning “off-ratio” or “fuel rich.

Therefore 10 . This graph may be used to determine the propellant flow rate required to produce a certain thrust. Suppose you wish to design a rocket engine using gaseous oxygen and gasoline propellants to be burned at a chamber pressure of 200 psi with a thrust of 100 lbs.Figure 4 Flame temperature versus mixture ratio at a constant chamber pressure of 300 psi The thrust developed per pound of total propellant burned per second is known as specific impulse and is defined as: Figure 5 indicates the maximum performance possible from hydrocarbon fuels burned with gaseous oxygen at various chamber pressures with the gas expanded to atmospheric pressure. is 244 lb of thrust per 1 lb or propellant burned per second. At these conditions the propellant performance. from figure 5.

we have 11 .Figure 5 Isp performance of hydrocarbon fuels with gaseous oxygen. Since the minimum Isp mixture ratio (r) for oxygen and gasoline is 2.5.

PROPELLANT PROPERTIES The chemical and physical properties of gaseous oxygen. methyl alcohol. and gasoline are given in Table II. 12 .

32 ft-lb/lb° R. and M is the molecular weight of the gas.DESIGN EQUATIONS The following section will detail simplified equations for the design of small liquid-fuel rocket motors.2 for the products of combustion of gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel. The nomenclature for the motor design is shown in Figure 6. so that R is about 65 ft-lb/lb° R. Gamma. 13 . given by R = R / M. Figure 6 Motor Design Configuration Nozzle The nozzle throat cross-sectional area may be computed if the total propellant flow rate is known and the propellants and operating conditions have been chosen. The molecular weight of the hot gaseous products of combustion of gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel is about 24. R is the universal gas constant equal to 1545. g. is the ratio of gas specific heats and is a thermodynamic variable which the reader is encouraged to read about elsewhere (see Bibliography). Gamma is about 1. Assuming perfect gas law theory: where R = gas constant.

given by 14 . The gas temperature at the nozzle throat is less than in the combustion chamber due to loss of thermal energy in accelerating the gas to local speed of sound (Mach number = 1) at the throat.gc is a constant relating to the earth’s gravitation and is equal to 32.2 ft/sec/sec. Therefore Tc is the combustion chamber flame temperature in degrees Rankine (°R). For further calculations the reader may consider the following as constants whenever gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel propellants are used: Tt is the temperature of the gases at the nozzle throat.

7 psi. Mach number is the ratio of the gas velocity to the local speed of sound. The pressure at the nozzle throat is less than in the combustion chamber due to acceleration of the gas to the local speed of sound (Mach number =1) at the throat. or 14. Therefore The hot gases must now be expanded in the diverging section of the nozzle to obtain maximum thrust. 15 . The mach number at the nozzle exit is given by a perfect gas law expansion expression Pc is the pressure in the combustion chamber and Patm is atmospheric pressure. This area will then be the nozzle exit area. The pressure of these gases will decrease as energy is used to accelerate the gas and we must now find that area of the nozzle where the gas pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure.Pt is gas pressure at the nozzle throat.

The temperature ratio between the chamber gases and those at the nozzle exit is given by The nozzle throat area diameter is given by 16 . Therefore.2 for gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon propellant products.The nozzle exit area corresponding to the exit Mach number resulting from the choice of chamber pressure is given by Since g is fixed at 1. we can eliminate the parameters for future design use. the results are tabulated in Table III.

and the exit diameter is given by A good value for the nozzle convergence half-angle b (see Figure 3) is 60°. Combustion Chamber A parameter describing the chamber volume required for complete combustion is the characteristic chamber length. and At is the nozzle throat area (in2). in cubic inches. For gaseous oxygen/hydrocarbon fuels. To reduce losses due to flow velocity of gases within the chamber. the combustion chamber cross-sectional area should be at least three time the nozzle throat area. which is given by Where Vc is the chamber volume (including the converging section of the nozzle). a. should be no greater than 15° to prevent nozzle internal flow losses. L*. The combustion chamber cross-sectional area is given by The chamber volume is given by 17 . L* is really a substitute for determining the chamber residence time of the reacting propellants. The nozzle divergence half-angle. an L* of 50 to 100 inches is appropriate.

A typical material for small water-cooled combustion chambers is copper. The thickness of the chamber wall and nozzle are usually equal. D is the mean diameter of the cylinder. 18 . therefore. so that The chamber diameter for small combustion chambers (thrust levels less than 75 pounds) should be three to five times the nozzle throat diameter so the injector will have useable face area. The combustion chamber must also be physically attached to the cooling jacket and. Chamber Wall Thickness The combustion chamber must be able to withstand the internal pressure of the hot combustion gases. for which the allowable working stress is about 8.000 psi.For small combustion chambers the convergent volume is about 1/10 the volume of the cylindrical portion of the chamber. and tw is the thickness of the cylinder wall. The thickness of the combustion chamber wall is therefore given by This is the minimum thickness. Since the chamber will be a cylindrical shell. buckling. and stress concentration. the chamber wall thickness must be sufficient for welding or brazing purposes. the working stress in the wall is given by Where P is the pressure in the combustion chamber (neglecting the effect of coolant pressure on the outside of the shell). actually the thickness should be somewhat greater to allow for welding.

However. and are listed below: 19 . Some important empirical design guidelines are available. Engine Cooling The amateur should not consider building un-cooled rocket engines since they can operate for only a short time and their design requires a thorough knowledge of heat and mass transfer engineering. that the cooling of a rocket engine is a difficult and exacting task. The injector is usually self-cooled by the incoming flow of propellants. water is the only coolant recommended. The combustion chamber forms the inner wall and another concentric but larger cylinder provides the outer wall. etc. It is apparent. therefore. The space between the walls serves as the coolant passage. and can be 250 times that of a good steam boiler or five times that of a gas turbine combustion chamber. for static tests and for amateur operation.) will usually require walls thicker than those indication by the stress equation. in the case of flight engines is usually one of the propellants. The combustion chamber and nozzle definitely require cooling. The cooling jacket consists of an inner and outer wall. The energy release per unit chamber volume of a rocket engine is very large. therefore. A new allowable stress value must be used in Equation (22). dependent on the jacket material chosen. The heat transfer rate of a rocket engine is usually 20 to 200 times that of a good boiler.Equation (22) can also be used to calculate the wall thickness of the water cooling jacket. A cooling jacket permits the circulation of a coolant. the most difficult to cool. however. the value of tw will be the minimum thickness since welding factors and design considerations (such as O-ring grooves. The nozzle throat region usually has the highest heat transfer intensity and is. The complete heat transfer design of a rocket engine is extremely complex and is usually beyond the capabilities of most amateur builders. Cooled rocket motors have provision for cooling some or all metal parts coming into contact with the hot combustion gases. which. Here again.

Use copper for the combustion chamber and nozzle walls.1. Heat Transfer The largest part of the heat transferred from the hot chamber gases to the chamber walls is by convection. Use water as the coolant. 3. 5. The chamber walls have to be kept at a temperature such that the wall material strength is adequate to prevent failure. 2. The consequent failure is caused because of the sharp temperature rise in the wall caused by excessive heat transfer to the boiling coolant. 20 . melt. 4. Water flow rate should be high enough so that boiling does not occur. 6. Water flow velocity in the cooling jacket should be 20 to 50 feet per second. The amount of heat transferred by conduction is small and the amount transferred by radiation is usually less than 25% of the total. or damage the wall material or by raising the wall temperature on the liquid coolant side so as to vaporize the liquid next to the wall. Material failure is usually caused by either raising the wall temperature on the gas side so as to weaken. A steady flow of cooling water is essential. Extend the water cooling jacket beyond the face of the injector.

Btu/lb°F temperature of coolant leaving jacket. The total heat transferred from the chamber to the cooling water is given by where Q q A ww cp T Ti = = = = = = = total heat transferred. 21 . Material requirements are critical only in those parts which come into direct contact with propellant gases. Materials The combustion chamber and nozzle walls have to withstand relatively high temperature. The wall material must be capable of high heat transfer rates (which means good thermal conductivity) yet. Other motor components can be made of conventional materials. Btu/in2-sec heat transfer area.In water-cooled chambers the transferred heat is absorbed by the water. lb/sec specific heat of coolant. The water must have an adequate heat capacity to prevent boiling of the water at any point in the cooling jacket. high gas velocity. in2 coolant flow rate. °F The use of this equation will be illustrated in the section Example Design Calculation. have adequate strength to withstand the chamber combustion pressure. at the same time. chemical erosion. °F temperature of coolant entering jacket. and high stress. Btu/sec average heat transfer rate of chamber.

can easily cause engine failure. Those injector parts in contact with the hot chamber gases should also be machined from copper. The cooling jacket and those injector parts not in contact with the hot propellant gases. 3. Expert machine and welding work is essential to produce a safe and useable rocket engine. which is then blown away exposing new metal to the hot gases. except that a flight weight engine will not result. providing a lightweight structure absolutely required for efficient launch and flight vehicles. Exotic metals and difficult fabrication techniques are used in today’s space and missile rocket engines. 4. 2. These are advanced metals and fabrication techniques are far outside the reach of the serious amateur builder. final burn-through and engine destruction are extremely rapid. or poor welds. 22 . Even a small pinhole in the chamber wall will almost immediately (within one second) open into a large hole because of the hot chamber gases (4000-6000°F) will oxidize or melt the adjacent metal.Once the wall material of an operating rocket engine begins to fail. The combustion chamber and nozzle should be machined in one piece. However. Since almost all amateur rocket firing should be conducted on a static test stand. Shoddy or careless workmanship. from copper. Experience with a wide variety of rocket engine designs leads to the following recommendations for amateur rocket engines: 1. should be fabricated from brass or stainless steel. this is not a severe restriction to the amateur builder. the use of more commonplace (and much less expensive!) metals and fabrication techniques is quite possible.

we present below the equation for the low of liquid through a simple orifice (a round drilled hole. causing good mixing and efficient combustion. However.Injectors The function of the injector is to introduce the propellants into the combustion chamber in such a way that efficient combustion can occur. lb/sec area of orifice. When gaseous oxygen is used as the oxidizer. lb/ft3 gravitational constant. and a liquid hydrocarbon is used as the fuel. ft2 pressure drop across orifice. There are two types of injectors which the amateur builder can consider for small engine design. 32. One of these is the impinging stream injector in which the oxidizer and fuel are injected through a number of separate holes so that the resulting streams intersect with each other. lb/ft2 density of propellant. The small holes are also difficult to drill. the impingement of the liquid stream with the high velocity gas stream results in diffusion and vaporization. for example) where w A DP r g Cd = = = = = = propellant flow rate. especially in soft copper. The fuel stream will impinge with the oxidizer stream and both will break up into small droplets.2 ft/sec2 orifice discharge coefficient 23 . to provide a complete picture of the equations used in rocket engine design. A disadvantage of this type of injector is that extremely small holes are required for small engine flow rates and the hydraulic characteristics and equations normally used to predict injector parameters do not give good results for small orifices.

Figure 7 illustrates the two types of injectors. The amateur need only determine the size and spray characteristics required for his engine design and the correct spray nozzle can then be purchased at a low cost. or velocity of the liquid stream issuing from the orifice. A second type of injector is the spray nozzle in which conical. solid cone. hollow cone. or other type of spray sheet can be obtained.7. are usually used in small liquid-fuel rocket engines. The injection velocity. When a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is forced through a spray nozzle (similar to those used in home oil burners) the resulting fuel droplets are easily mixed with gaseous oxygen and the resulting mixture readily vaporized and burned.5 and 0. is given by Injection pressure drops of 70 to 150 psi. The injection pressure drop must be high enough to eliminate combustion instability inside the combustion chamber but must not be so high that the tankage and pressurization system used to supply fuel to the engine is penalized.The discharge coefficient for a well-shaped simple orifice will usually have a value between 0. Spray nozzles are especially attractive for the amateur builder since several companies manufacture them commercially for oil burners and other applications. 24 . or injection velocities of 50 to 100 ft/sec.

The use of commercial spray nozzles for amateur-built rocket engines is highly recommended. Figure 7 Fuel Injectors for Amateur Rocket Engines. 25 .

is 2. and concepts presented in the previous sections. r. and 5 we determine that the optimum O/F ratio is about 2. 4.EXAMPLE DESIGN CALCULATION The following example illustrates the use of the equations. The engine is to operate at sea level using gaseous oxygen and gasoline propellants. tables. Step 1 From Table I and Figures 3.5 and that the ideal specific impulse will be about 260 seconds. A small water-cooled liquid-fuel rocket engine is to be designed for a chamber pressure of 300 psi and a thrust of 20 pounds. The total propellant flow rate is given by Equation (3) Since the mixture ratio.5.5. we find from Equation (5) From Equation (6) the oxygen flow rate is As a check. 26 . we divide the oxygen flow rate by the fuel flow rate and the result is 2. as it should be.

or about 6202°R. From Equation (9) the gas temperature at the nozzle throat is Step 3 From Equation (12) the pressure at the nozzle throat is Step 4 The nozzle throat area is given by Equation (7) Step 5 The nozzle throat diameter is given by Equation (17) Step 6 From Table III we find that for a chamber pressure of 300 psi and a nozzle exit pressure of 14.Step 2 From Table I we note that the chamber gas temperature is 5 7 4 2 °F.7 psi (sea level) 27 .

or Ac. We do this by assuming that the chamber diameter is five times the nozzle throat diameter or Dc = that the nozzle exit area is. from Equation (17) Step 8 For this propellant combination we will assume a combustion chamber L* of 60 inches. we must first determine the chamber area. therefore Therefore. 28 . from Equation (15) Step 7 The nozzle exit diameter is. The combustion chamber volume is given by Equation (19) Step 9 The chamber length is found from Equation (21) However.

Step 11 Previous experience with small water-cooled rocket engines has shown that we can expect the copper combustion chamber and nozzle to experience an average heat transfer rate. The chamber wall thickness is given by Equation (23) To allow for additional stress and welding factors we shall set the wall thickness equal to 3/32 or 0.09375 inch and will assume that the nozzle wall has this thickness also. The surface area is given by The area of the nozzle cone up to the throat can be assumed to be about 10% of the chamber surface area so that The total heat transferred into the coolant is given by Equation (24) 29 . The heat transfer area of the combustion chamber is the outer surface area of the chamber and nozzle. q. of about 3 Btu/in2-sec.Step 10 Copper will be used for the combustion chamber and nozzle wall.

given by where D2 is the inner diameter of the outer jacket and D1 is the outer diameter of the combustion chamber. This velocity is obtained when the flow passage has dimensions as determined below: where vw = 30 ft/sec. If this is 40°F then. r = 62. given by Substituting in the above equations 30 .Step 12 The cooling water flow rate can be calculated by assuming a desired temperature rise of the water.775 lb/sec. ww = 0.4 lb/ft3. from Equation (24) Step 13 The annular flow passage between the combustion chamber wall and the outer jacket must be sized so that the flow velocity of the cooling water is at least 30 ft/sec. and A is the area of the annular flow passage.

Step 14 The fuel injector for this small rocket engine will be a commercial spray nozzle with a 75° spray angle. The required capacity of the nozzle is determined by the fuel flow rate Since there are six pounds of gasoline per gallon. the determination of the required injector hole number and size would have been as follows: The flow area for fuel injection is given by Equation (25) We will assume that Cd = 0. so that 31 .0425 inch.The water flow gap is 0. If an impinging jet injector had been chosen. the spray nozzle flow requirement is 0. The density of gasoline is about 44. The spray nozzle can now be ordered from any of several suppliers (see List of Suppliers). nozzle material should be brass to ensure adequate injector heat transfer to the incoming propellant.7 with a fuel injection pressure drop of 100 psi.22 gallons per minute (gpm).5 lb/ft3.

If we assume an injection pressure drop of 100 psi then the oxygen gas pressure at the entrance to the injection ports will be 400 psi (the chamber pressure plus the injection pressure drop). The holes must not be so small that sonic velocity is achieved in the orifice passages since this would result in a high upstream pressure requirement to drive the required amount of oxygen through the orifices. The size of these orifices should be such that a gas stream velocity of about 200 ft/sec is obtained at design oxygen flow rate.If only one injection hole is used (a poor practice which can lead to combustion instability) its diameter would be A number 69 drill could be used for this hole. If a spray nozzle fuel injector is used we will assume the use of four equally spaced oxygen injection ports parallel to the combustion chamber centerline around this nozzle. Step 15 The injection holes for the gaseous oxygen will be simple drilled orifices. The density of gaseous oxygen at 400 psi and a temperature of 68°F is given by the perfect gas law (see Table II) 32 . their diameter would be A number 75 drill could be used for these holes. If two fuel injection holes are used.

Assuming incompressibility. requires engineering judgment and knowledge of machining. The actual design of the rocket engine. welding. Perhaps the best way to accomplish the final design is to sit down with appropriate drafting materials and begin to draft a cross-section view of the engine. Design The foregoing design calculations provide the dimensions. A scale of 2/1 (or twice actual size) is about right for these small engines and will enable the designer to better visualize the entire assembly. thicknesses. These same size oxygen jets could also be used with two fuel jets in the impinging stream injector. the injection flow area is given by Since we know the oxygen flow rate and the desired injection velocity. The holes. oxygen and fuels. however. 33 .004375 in2 and the diameter of each hole is A number 48 drill could be used for these holes. should be drilled at an angle of 45° with respect to the injector face with the intersection point of the streams about 1/4 inch inside the combustion chamber. and operational factors since these interact to determine the final configuration of the engine and its components. each hole has an area of 0. we can easily find the total injection area Since there are to be four holes. and orifice sizes for the major components of our rocket engine.

oxy-acetylene torch or small arc welder. calipers. The engine design features easy fabrication and assembly. 3. lengths. 4.001 inch. and the design technique described above. 34 . dynamic balance of components is not required. high speed chuck. 2. The metalturning lathe should have a repeatable accuracy of 0.. The drill press will be used to drill small diameter holes and should have a true running. and other features prior to actual machining. a milling machine or planer will not be required. such as model steam engines. rocket engine. Since a properly designed engine will have symmetrical parts. Because the rocket engine has no rotating parts. micrometers. 6” or 10” metal-turning lathe. the rocket engine assembly design shown in Figure 8 is obtained. recesses. and should be used to locate holes. However. and turbines. etc. homogeneous materials and careful fabrication technique are definitely required to produce a safe. A properly designed small liquid-fuel rocket engine requires the following machine and hand tools: 1. working. the use of quality. Mensuration equipment such as calipers. etc.Using the dimensions obtained in the example calculation. must be capable of inside and outside diameter measurements. FABRICATION The fabrication and assembly of a small liquid fuel rocket engine is no more difficult than the more serious amateur machine projects. micrometers. gasoline engines. with attachments Precision drill press hand files.

The joining of the various engine components is especially critical since the engine will operate at high pressure and high temperature. Figure 8 Assembly drawing of small liquid-fuel rocket engine. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) injector assembly O-ring liquid fuel gaseous oxygen engine mount (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) coolant fuel spray nozzle combustion chamber outer shell coolant 35 .

should be as good as those required for aircraft work. Typical materials for this part are stainless steel or brass. typically on the order of 20-30 36 . and the outside finish of the shell. Building the combustion chamber and nozzle in one piece eliminates this potential failure point. Since the coolant (typically water) will probably have an entry pressure of 60 to 100 psi. these two mounting requirements can be easily combined to simplify the design. which will be visible to the world. in all probability. Machining of the outer shell or jacket is less critical than the combustion chamber-nozzle. this joint would be exposed to the hot combustion gases (5700°F) on one side and would. but that is dangerous) prior to actual use with propellants. assembled components should be pressure tested with water (or nitrogen gas.The ability of the welder. and the welding techniques employed. The shell will also feature a method of attaching the injector and for mounting the engine to a test or thrust stand. eliminates the requirement for a joint of some kind between the two parts. The inside diameter of the shell should have a smooth finish to reduce cooling pressure drop. the combustion chamber and nozzle should be built as a one piece unit. This arrangement. these ports and fittings should be constructed with some care. As shown in Figure 8. with a close fit between parts to ensure adequate weld strength and integrity. fail. Care must be exercised during the machining of the copper chamber-nozzle to ensure constant wall thickness and the correct taper in the nozzle region. Metal joints must be clean. Thin wall sections are potential failure points and could result in almost immediate catastrophic failure during firing. Repair of leaks or initially poor welds must be carefully done with subsequent retesting with pressurized water (called hydro-testing or hydrostatic testing). should reflect the care and concern of the machinist. As discussed previously. The shell will also contain the coolant entry and exit ports. To the extent possible. The forces to be considered when designing the shell are not the thrust forces (which are small. The use of flare type fittings with metal tapered seats (such as those manufactured by Parker or Weatherhead) is highly recommended. while more difficult from a machining point of view.

which is typically 100 to 300 psi. The force attempting to separate the injector from the shell is slightly over 600 pounds for the design shown in Figure 8 at a combustion pressure of 300 psi. however. The outer shell must also contain a sealing device to prevent the high pressure combustion chamber gas from flowing back past the injector. Which an appropriately configured water-cooled design. 37 . the use of an elastomeric O-ring is highly desirable. the pressure forces attempting to separate the injector from the shell. The pressure acting on the injector area out to the point of sealing between the injector and the outer shell is the combustion chamber pressure. see List of Suppliers) will give reliable service if the surrounding metal does not exceed a temperature of 200-300°F.pounds) but. The number and size of bolts required can be obtained from Table IV. which gives the average load capacity of high strength steel bolts of various sizes. the tapped material. and the bolt tightening procedure used in assembly. Dimensions and design parameters for O-rings and O-ring grooves are given in manufacturers supply catalogs. The bolts holding the two components together (and in this case also holding the assembly to the test mount) must withstand this force with an adequate safety factor (typically a factor of two). depends to some extent on the adequacy of the threads in tapped holes. The strength of these bolts. A standard neoprene O-ring (manufactured by a number of companies. rather.

or brass. The mating surface of the injector should be smooth and flat. Oring groove dimensions are critical and should be obtained from suppliers handbooks. Crush gasket groove dimensions are noncritical. Figure 9 illustrates the relationship between an O-ring and a copper crush gasket and their mating surfaces. Injection holes for the gaseous oxygen (and for the fuel.Another method of sealing is the use of an asbestos-copper crush gasket (very similar to those used on automobile spark plugs. The drilled hole should have an entry and exit free from burrs or chips. Extreme care should be used in drilling these holes. However. Figure 9 Detail on O-ring and crush gasket sealing methods. if impinging jets are used) will usually be made with numbered drills of small diameter. It is vitally 38 . see List of Suppliers). only larger. stainless steel. The outer shell of the injector can be made from either copper. groove depth should be about 1/3 the thickness of uncrushed gasket. metal-to-metal kind) should be stainless steel for best results. since the propellant inlet fittings (again these should be the tapered seat. especially in soft copper. It is usually a good idea to make the injector outer shell from stainless steel so that the inlet fittings can be attached to the remainder of the injector by silver brazing without weakening the inlet fitting welds. The injector should be fabricated from copper to provide maximum heat transfer from the injector face to the incoming propellants. with no machine marks. The copper crush gasket in positioned by a V-groove cut in the surface of the outer jacket at the sealing point.

While many of the components suitable for use in amateur rocket feed systems are readily available from welding or automobile parts suppliers. After injector welding. a regulated supply of high pressure gaseous oxygen. Feed System The feed system for amateur rocket engine testing consists of a tank to store the liquid fuel. and the assembly should receive a final rinse in acetone or alcohol. 39 . they are usually relatively expensive. is mandatory for safe operation of amateur rocket engines. need be done only once. however. made to do the job or very carefully modified and pre-tested. Feed System Components The components of a rocket engine feed system are precision instruments designed to handle gas and/or liquids at high pressure. A typical pressurized feed system is shown schematically in Figure 10. the installation of this equipment. and a control device for regulating the propellant flow rates. a regulated supply of high pressure nitrogen gas to force the fuel from the tank into the engine. The use of quality products. hot water should be used to thoroughly clean the injector assembly of brazing flux and residues. and its safe use in engine operation. The amateur builder should expect the assembly of the feed system to be an expensive project which. TESTING EQUIPMENT In this section we shall discuss the auxiliary equipment needed to operate the rocket engine.important that injector components be thoroughly cleaned and de-burred prior to assembly.

High Pressure Gas Cylinders Gases stored in cylinders at high pressure (usually about 1800 psi) are readily obtained from any bottled gas supplier or from many welding suppliers. Several suppliers of high pressure gases publish instruction books on the care and use of high pressure cylinders (see Bibliography). Although cylinders can be purchased. the best way of securing is to chain or strap the cylinders to an appropriate stand or worktable. High pressure gas cylinders should never he dropped or mishandled. the amateur is encouraged to read and follow these professional instructions. When cylinders are not in use the cap should be kept on to protect the cylinder valve. 40 . Cylinders should be stored so they cannot fall over or inadvertently roll. they are usually rented and then returned to the supplier for recharge at a nominal fee. Special fittings with nonstandard threads are used to prevent use of incorrect equipment with the cylinders.

(4) fuel tank. (6) relief valve. The amateur builder will have little difficulty with materials of construction for nitrogen but must be careful that all components are suitable for high pressure service. (1) high pressure gaseous nitrogen supply. P is pressure gauge. (8) fill port. (2) pressure regulator. 41 . (3) check valve. (12) purge valve. (9) drain valve.Figure 10 Schematic diagram of gas pressure feed system. (7) vent valve. Cleanliness of components is important for proper and reliable operation. (13) rocket engine. (11) fuel filter. (5) gaseous oxygen cylinders. (10) remotely operated propellant control valve. Propellants are a liquid fuel and gaseous oxygen. Gaseous Nitrogen Nitrogen is an inert gas compatible with all normally available materials.

made from carbon. fittings. Many commercial suppliers of valves and regulators offer a special service for cleaning their products for oxygen service. They are toxic and easily ignited. are offered to the public from war surplus outlets. All items. They should not be modified since in nearly all cases they are thin wall pressure vessels made for aircraft service. Fuel Tank The fuel tank is a closed vessel which contains the liquid fuel at moderate pressure (300-500 psi). is an absolute must. etc. When cleaning components with solvent or acetone. Orders for commercial items should he marked to indicate their intended use with high pressure gaseous oxygen.Gaseous Oxygen Oxygen will not itself burn but does vigorously support the rapid combustion of almost all other materials.or stainless steel. fires. or other possible ignition sources. Thorough cleaning of all items in solvent. valves. These fluids should not be stored indoors but in vented lockers away from main buildings. including lines. grease. followed by a complete rinse in acetone. Cleaning should be done outside and away from buildings. In all cases the tank should be hydrostatically tested to at least 1 1/2 times desired operating pressure before use in the rocket engine feed system. The amateur should avail himself of these services whenever possible. 42 . and additional outlets or welding to the tank wall could seriously weaken the tank. MUST be absolutely free from oil. The amateur must be concerned not only with suitability of components for high pressure service but also must use only components that are made from oxygen compatible materials and that are cleaned for oxygen service. the amateur builder should observe all rules of safety applying to these chemicals. The amateur builder should be very careful if he decides to use such a tank. regulators. and similar contaminants.. Tanks of various sizes and shapes. even though they will add slightly to the initial cost of the component.

one on each end of the tank are required. a tank minimum wall thickness of 0. that a safety relief valve (either spring loaded or a burst disc).The amateur may build (or have built) a tank especially for his requirements.085 inch is calculated. The size of the tank is determined by the size of the rocket engine and the desired operating time. The tank wall thickness is given by Equation (22) where P is the pressure in the tank (1 1/2 times the desired operating pressure).250 inch is chosen to allow for welding factors.e. If the tank outside diameter is 4. the allowable stress in the steel is 20. 43 . The engine discussed in Example Design Calculation had a fuel flow rate of 0. The tank should be thoroughly cleaned and hydrostatically tested prior to use in the rocket engine feed system. Drilling and tapping should be done prior to welding. Seamless tubing or pipe (mild steel or stainless steel) with welded flat end plates makes an excellent tank. Welding should be done by an expert with several passes for each end plate (see Figure 11). to prevent oil and metal chips from falling into the tank. End plate ports should then be re-tapped. D is the outside diameter of the tank. and fuel outlet and drain are available. Many of these functions can be incorporated as part of the gas inlet and fuel outlet plumbing so that only two ports.022 lb/sec. and the operating pressure is 500 psi so that the design pressure is 750 psi. load and vent port. A wall thickness of 0. The tank inside diameter is 4. and the size of available seamless tubing. The fuel tank should contain enough ports.5 inches. A tank with a 4inch inside diameter and 12 inches long would hold enough gasoline to run this engine for 175 seconds. Outlet ports are easily tapped in the flat end plates. for this case.0 inches. at least 1/2 inch thick). gas inlet port.000 psi. The flat end plates for this tank should be at least twice the thickness of the tank wall (i. and S is the allowable stress. or the tank plumbing should be so arranged. stress concentrations. tw is the wall thickness.

Also. all the gas in the cylinder is not usable since some excess pressure (hence. 44 . wall stress is a function of diameter. A good quality regulator will maintain the downstream pressure quite accurately over a range of gas flow rates as long as the upstream cylinder pressure does not decrease so as to become too close to the downstream pressure. The flow rate of nitrogen gas required for the fuel from the tank is relatively small and could be handled by a regular gaseous oxygen welding regulator equipped with nitrogen cylinder fittings. Thus. Gaseous Nitrogen Regulator The purpose of a regulator is to maintain a constant pressure on the downstream side of the regulator as the pressure in the gas cylinder on the upstream side decreases. is required. Tanks made from seamless tubing should not be greater than six inches in diameter. A number of commercial firms (see List of Suppliers) market regulators for non-welding purposes that are admirably suited for fuel tank pressurization. the regulator. specialized design information.Figure 11 Fuel tank end detail. However. and at high stress. and maintain control of. not usually available to the amateur builder. Several weld passes should be used to attach the end plates to the seamless tubing. most welding regulators do not permit adjustment to the high downstream pressure required for rocket engine operation. the force on the tank end plates increases rapidly with tank diameter. gas) is required to drive the gas through.

and operated remotely by means of valve stem extensions (see discussion on Test Stand). special fittings are required to attach these regulators to the gas cylinder. but the valves themselves should be as indicated to afford a range of flow control with minimum pressure drop across the valve. Propellant Control Valves The propellant control valves allow the operator to start and then manually remote-control the flow of each propellant in to the rocket engine. Many manufacturers make this kind of valve (see List of Suppliers). These sources can also supply cylinder manifold kits so that two or more oxygen cylinders can be used simultaneously to achieve long engine run durations. Inexpensive. they should be mounted near the tanks and engine on the test stand.Especially attractive is the Grove Mity-Mite regulator with internal regulation. These valves should be stainless steel needle valves with Teflon packing or seals. if possible. 45 . metalto-metal seats should be used within the regulator. Regulator manufacturers should be consulted for recommendations on seat materials for use with gaseous oxygen in their regulators. except that the regulator should be especially cleaned for oxygen service and. Since these valves control the flow of propellants. Special fittings for attaching the regulator to the oxygen cylinder are available from the sources supplying nitrogen cylinder fittings. Gaseous Oxygen Regulator The discussion of regulators for gaseous nitrogen service applies to gaseous oxygen also. The tubing actually entering. 1/4 National Pipe Thread line size) and a 1/2-inch oxygen valve. These fittings are available from several sources (see List of Suppliers). and leaving. the valves need not be this large. The valve for gaseous oxygen should be larger than the valve for the fuel line. Engines of the size discussed in Example Design Calculation should use a 1/4-inch fuel valve (that is.

They are widely used in the aircraft and hydraulic industry and are manufactured by many companies. and the nitrogen purge valve. high quality ball valves are highly recommended for these functions since they offer positive shutoff. Check valves should be thoroughly cleaned prior to use and tested to insure that the check is working properly. Check Valves Check valves permit fluid flow in one direction only. A different disc must be used for each pressure range desired.Other Valves Other valves required in the feed system include the fuel tank vent and fill valve. Fuel Filter Fuel injection holes on small liquid-fuel rocket engines are easily plugged with contaminants from the fuel tank and control 46 . Relief Valves The fuel tank requires a relief device of some type to prevent tank failure in the event of over-pressurization. does not have to be replaced. l/4-inch line size is recommended for all functions shown in Figure 10 with the exception Of the gaseous oxygen line check valve which should feature metal-to-metal seats and be at least 3/8inch line size. An adjustable spring-loaded relief valve is recommended because it may be set to different pressures as feed system uses change. An alternate device is the burst disc which ruptures at a preset pressure and relieves the overpressure in the tank. and full line opening. it could happen if the gaseous nitrogen regulator failed to function or shut-off properly. easy operation with handle indication of on or off. and because. Brass or stainless steel valve bodies with Teflon seats are acceptable. Inexpensive. if used. While this is high unlikely. the drain valve. Burst discs require replacement after actuation and are not pressure adjustable. and the valves may be line or panel mounted (see List of Suppliers).

These gauges are easily panel mounted and make a neat test stand installation. and combustion chamber pressure should be at least 3 1/2 inch diameter for easy reading. sizes. water. from a distance. water. oxygen. Gauges for fuel. Several concerns make small filters suitable for rocket engine feed systems (see List of Suppliers). These gauges can be obtained from a welding supply shop. Plumbing Plumbing refers to the flow tubes and fittings used to connect the components discussed previously. Numerous manufacturers make these gauges in a bewildering variety of styles. ruggedness. These 3 1/2 Acaloy gauges of Helicoid (see List of Suppliers) are recommended because of their reliability and low cost. and availability for this requirement. and prices. 1/4-inch diameter stainless steel tubing for the fuel and nitrogen systems and 3/8 inch diameter stainless tubing for the oxygen line are recommended.system. Bronze Bourdon tubes are recommended since they are fully compatible (when cleaned) with gaseous oxygen or hydrocarbon fuel and are so widely used that significant cost savings are possible. 1/4 and 3/8 inch diameter copper tubing can also be used for the 47 . A fuel filter which can filter out particles down to ten microns in size is highly recommended and will save the amateur builder much grief when actual testing is started. oxygen. Pressure Gauges Fuel. Flare fittings with metal to metal seats are also recommended for joining the tubing to other components. Small (2 1/2 or 3-inch diameter) high pressure gauges similar to those used on oxygen welding regulators should be used by the amateur builder for measuring pressure in the high pressure gas cylinders or manifolds. Buordon-tube pressure gauges offer accuracy. and combustion chamber pressure are essential measurements for rocket engine operation. low cost.

The operator's station should contain the control valve extensions. Where the fittings screw into fuel tank. No other pipe thread compound should be used. The amateur builder should use only good flaring tools and should form or bend tubing only with a tube bender. The engine is firmly attached to a section of steel channel in the nozzle down position. especially on gaseous oxygen components. should be physically separated from the test stand proper by at least 20 feet. a mounting for the propellant flow control needle valves. in the event of an ignition failure. The operator's station. The rocket engine is separated from the propellant flow control valves by a 1/8-inch thick steel barricade. The compressed gas cylinders 48 . TEST STAND The amateur rocket engine test stand is a structure which incorporates a method for firmly mounting the rocket engine (preferably in a nozzle-down attitude). Figure 12 shows schematically the proper arrangement of components for a safe rocket engine test stand. This is the safest orientation for a liquid-fuel rocket engine since excess fuel. and the oxygen and nitrogen cylinders with regulators and associated plumbing. simply drains out of the engine nozzle. The greatest hazard in testing small rocket engines is from shrapnel in the event of engine explosion or disintegration. the ignition system battery and associated switches. with a shrapnel barricade between. or other components having pipe threads.fuel. oxygen. which is really a part of the test stand. The engine is mounted high enough from the ground so that no flame chute or other complicated exhaust deflector or fixture is required. the fuel tank and associated plumbing. and a mirror system so that the operator does not directly view the operating rocket engine. and nitrogen supply system but is not as desirable as stainless steel and is more easily flared. Therefore. valve. the use of Teflon tape on the threads is recommended. the test stand proper should be suitably barricaded to reduce shrapnel effect in all directions.

(one nitrogen and two oxygen) are mounted at the rear of the test stand and are separated from the control valves compartment by another barricade made from one-inch thick plywood. The nitrogen and oxygen regulators are mounted on this plywood barricade above the cylinders. In this manner, expended cylinders may he replaced with charged cylinders without disturbing the regulators or plumbing. A formed piece of stainless steel tubing between the oxygen manifold and the oxygen regulator and a similar piece of tubing between the nitrogen cylinder and its regulator are removed during cylinder exchange, and then reconnected. Lines should always be capped when not in use to prevent entry of dirt and other foreign objects. The fuel tank is mounted between the forward steel barricade and the rear plywood barricade on a metal cross-piece attached to both barricades. The tank is mounted in the vertical position with the liquid outlet at the bottom. The propellant flow control valves are mounted one atop the other in a metal bracket which is attached to the forward steel barricade. Panel mounted needle valves are recommended since they facilitate mounting in the manner described, and do not place mounting or operating stresses on the propellant flow tubing. Valve stem extensions, made from 1/4-inch pipe permit operation of the control valves from the operator's remote control station, which is located at least twenty feet from the test stand proper. Pressure gauges for fuel tank pressure, oxygen line pressure, cooling water exit pressure and combustion chamber pressure are mounted in a panel which is attached to the forward and rear barricades and which faces the operator's remote station.


Figure 12

Test stand for a small liquid-fuel rocket engine.

Cooling water for the rocket engine is brought into a hose coupling attached to the stand, with semi-permanent plumbing between the coupling and the rocket engine. Water flowing from the cooling jacket should be directed away from the engine or can be directed downward onto a 3-inch deep layer of coarse stones laid beneath the rocket engine exhaust. These stones will prevent the engine exhaust from picking up dirt and dust; the water will cool the stones and extend their useful life. The jet of


cooling water can be observed by the operator as an indication that cooling water is actually flowing through the engine. The test stand proper should have a framework made from welded or bolted steel angle. The forward steel and rear plywood barricade are bolted to this angle framework providing rigidity and strength. Thee test stand should be firmly attached to the surface of the test area either by bolting to a concrete pad or by weighing down with sand bags or concrete weights.

Because of the physical hazards involved in handling propellants and controlling high pressure combustion proeesses, certain elementary safety precautions must be observed in static testing of rocket engines. During the design, and later, the operation of amateur liquid rocket engines, the following general safety precautions shou1d be observed: 1. The operator should be protected by a suitable barricade located some distance (at least 20 feet) from the test unit. Control of valves during engine ignition and steadystate operation should be by remote means, which for amateur units is best achieved by manual control of needle valves via valve stem extensions. A large chemical fire extinguisher (or, at least, a plentiful supply of water) should always be on hand. The operator should not view the test unit directly, but should use a mirror arrangement (somewhat like a periscope) or use a thick layer of reinforced safety glass attached to the operator's barricade. REMEMBER, the primary danger is from shrapnel in the event of engine explosion.


3. 4.


6. 9. 10. 52 . and other components which directly sense fluid properties should not be located in the operator's station. 11. This rule does not apply to electrical instrumentation wherein a transducer is located on the test stand and an electrical readout (such as a meter) is located at the operator's station (this type of instrumentation is very expensive and is beyond the reach of most amateurs). do not breathe fuel vapors for even a short time. Separating of fuel and oxidizer storage reduces the fire and explosion hazard and limits the amount of propellant stowed in any one area. Personnel handling propellants should wear safety equipment such as gloves. The test stand unit should be barricaded on several sides to reduce shrapnel effect in event of explosion. face shields. Remember vapors from hydrocarbon fuels (such as gasoline) can travel long distances from the test area and can be ignited at a remote point traveling back to the test stand. A test must NEVER be conducted until the operator has assured himself that all personnel are behind safety barricades or otherwise protected. but should be on the test stand and remotely read. 7. No smoking is ever permitted anywhere near a test area when propellants are also present. Warning signals should be given prior to tests (or whenever gas cylinder valves are open) to notify personnel that the area is hazardous.5. 8. Valves. pressure gauges. Remember that most fuels are toxic. Personnel should be permitted to work in the test area only if fuel and oxidizer are separated and not pressurized. or rubber aprons.

perform this test by flowing water through the injector. Since the injector face is not easily blanked off.12. in a container. Use a pressure gauge attached to the water line as near to the injector fuel entry port as possible. Attach a pressure gauge to the outlet port of the jacket and open the water valve. pressure should be 50-100 psi with no flow). Leak Testing Connect the engine cooling jacket to a readily available source of pressurized water (such as lawn or house supply. Attach a flexible hose (garden variety will do) to the outlet of the cooling jacket and start water flowing through the jacket at the desired pressure. several checkout tests and flow calibrations should be made prior to testing with live propellants. A similar pressure check should be performed on the fuel manifold of the injector. Use a filter in the water line to avoid plugging the small fuel injection holes. water flowing through the engine over a timed period. Observe the jacket and engine for leaks. ENGINE CHECK-OUT and CALIBRATION After the rocket engine has been fabricated. Water pressure can be measured either at the entrance or exit of the cooling jacket. Once steady flow has been achieved quickly move the hose outlet into the catch container 53 . allowing water to fill the jacket. Use a bathroom or other available scale to weigh. Flow Calibration The water flow rate through the engine cooling jacket should be determined for various inlet pressures. A check-off list is helpful when conducting a rocket engine firing and should be made up of both technical events and safety items to be completed prior to the firing. There should be no leaks. There should be no leaks.

Use a stop or sweep second watch for the timing and be accurate! Obtain the net weight of collected water by subtracting from the weight of the filled container its empty weight. a different source of cooling water may be required. the pressure drop required to flow a given quantity of water will provide some indication of how closely design objectives were achieved. If insufficient water pressure is available to achieve the design water flow rate. However. Another solution is to disassemble the engine and re-bore the outer shell to open up the water flow passage. Check also the size of the flexible duct hose used. Fill the tank with clean water. The flow characteristics of water and the hydrocarbon fuels are different. Test Stand Checkout After the test stand and operator's area are completed and components installed. tests should the conducted to determine that no gas or liquid leaks will occur when actual propellants are used. This operation should be repeated several times at different pressures to obtain the flow characteristics of the coolant jacket. Material should NOT be removed from the combustion chamber/nozzle. using water. Divide the net weight by the time during which water was collected and the result will be water flow rate in lb/sec. Under extreme conditions. then quickly remove the hose from the container. Cap off the fuel and oxygen lines where they would normally attach to the engine. A soap 54 . Flow rate tests of the injector. so that a water calibration is not directly comparable to what will occur when fuel is used. Pressurize the system to 100 psi and check for leaks. although their worth is questionable. This test should be conducted in the same manner as the cooling water calibration test except that the flow time should he long enough to accumulate at least ten pounds of water. can be performed in a manner similar to the cooling system calibration. an air-pressurized water tank or a motor-driven pump may be required.for a period of 30 seconds. check the size of tubing or hose used between the water source and the engine. If these tests show that greater pressure is required to achieve the desired flow rate. it may be restricting the water flow rate.

or attached to. IGNITION and OPERATION Discussion of propellant ignition has been reserved until this point since it is really a test stand function and is required only for actual operation of the engine. The propellants used in amateur rocket engines require a separate source for ignition. A small amount of cotton is wrapped around. Hot-source ignition works as follows: two lengths of insulated #16 or #18 solid wire are taped together and their exposed ends are bent to form a spark gap of about 3/32-inch. If no leaks are present. Depressurize the system and refill the fuel tank with clean water. and drastically reduces hard starts. Hundreds of tests with small liquid-fuel rocket engines employing gaseous oxygen as the oxidizer have indicated that hot-source ignition provides excellent propellant ignition characteristics. If no leaks develop. Soap bubbles indicate the presence of a gas leak. if desired). the ignition of incoming propellants in the combustion chamber by a small spark plug is dangerous and unreliable. Because the engines are small. Even if it were. the use of an engine-mounted spark plug is not generally feasible.solution can be used to check around all fittings and seals. Pressurize the stand in the normal manner and practice the ignition and operating sequence using water as fuel (gaseous oxygen can safely he used in these tests. increase the pressure to 200 psi and repeat the detection procedure. Attach the rocket engine to its test mount and connect all tubing. An excess of either propellant (if both are liquid) in the combustion chamber can lead to severe over-pressure upon ignition (known as "hard" start) and possible fracture of the combustion chamber. Propellant timing is extremely important in a bi-propellant liquid rocket engine. empty the fuel tank of water and dry by flushing with nitrogen gas for several seconds. The engine and test stand are now ready for their first hot firing. thc wires very near the spark 55 . Continue this procedure until the test stand operating pressure is reached and no leaks are present. The amateur engine using gaseous oxygen is not nearly as sensitive to hard starts as if the oxidizer were a liquid.

gap but not obstructing it. The ignitor cotton is soaked in gasoline or kerosene. This ignition assembly is pushed through the nozzle into the combustion chamber of the rocket engine so that the spark gap is in the lower end of the combustion chamber but not blocking the nozzle throat. 3. 56 . Figure 13 details this hotsource igniter. The free ends of the two wires are attached to the spark source (a Ford Model-T spark coil is ideal for this purpose). The wires outside the engine are bent or taped to hold the ignition assembly in position during the ignition phase. 2. Ignitor is consumed during each use and must be replaced. after the test stand is prepared for firing is: Figure 13 Hot-source igniter for small liquid fuel rocket engines using gaseous oxygen oxidizer. The battery should be at the operator's remote station. The operator ascertains that the area is clear and ready for firing. 1. The ignition procedure. The operator checks operation of the spark coil and then disconnects the coil from the battery for safety.

(this is an indication of unburned carbon in the exhaust). Inside the combustion chamber the cotton igitor should immediately burst into flame in the oxygen atmosphere. The operator may have difficulty ascertaining that the cotton is actually burning although small flaming bits of material may be ejected from the nozzle. The fuel control needle valve is now opened very slightly to allow fuel to flow into the combustion chamber. The ignitor is pushed through the nozzle into the combustion chamber and secured. 10. The spark coil is energized. 8. The oxygen and fuel flow rates should now be rapidly and simultaneously increased by opening the control needle valves until tie combustion chamber pressure gauge indicates that desired conditions Exist inside the chamber. The firing bell or horn is sounded. The oxygen flow needle valve is opened very slightly to allow a very small flow of gaseous oxygen to pass over the ignitor and out the combustion chamber. 12. 7. if the exhaust is transparent or bluish the 57 6. Cooling water is allowed to flow through the engine at the proper rate.4. 9. . 11. Gas cylinder valves are opened. The spark coil is reconnected to its battery. 5. More oxygen is required if the exhaust is bright yellow or smoky. The operator will need to judge whether more or less oxygen is required for desired O/F ratio operation. the fuel tank is pressurized. and all gas pressures adjusted to operating values. A flame should immediately appear at the nozzle exit and a low whistling sound should be heard.

the cylinder valves are closed. It is quite safe to simply let the engine run out of liquid fuel. The operator should have a timer or have someone time the engine run. 15. The engine will abruptly stop operation and the operator can then turn off the flow of gaseous oxygen. Water should be allowed to flow through the engine cooling jacket for several minutes after run termination. The correct mixture ratio is achieved when the exhaust gases are transparent (or nearly so) but the supersonic standing shocks (Mach diamonds) in the exhaust are clearly seen. above. 14.oxygen flow should he decreased slightly. and the fuel tank vent valve opened. Remember that as you vary the fuel and oxidizer flows you are changing not only the amount of material passing through the engine but are also affecting the temperature of the burning gases. 58 . also immediately shut-off the flow of gaseous oxygen (metal will burn vigorously in an oxygen environment). should be followed. It may be necessary to wear ear protection because of this high noise level. If engine metal parts are burning. Always shutoff the liquid fuel first. 13. The gaseous nitrogen pressurizing the fuel tank then purges the fuel supply system automatically. Both of these effects will affect the combustion chamber pressure. If the engine is to be stopped prior to fuel depletion the fuel flow control valve should be quickly turned off. followed by opening of the nitrogen purge valve. In the event of engine failure. After the engine has stopped operation (thus assuring that the nitrogen purge has forced all fuel from the engine) the gaseous oxygen valve may be turned off. the shutdown sequence detailed in (14). The oxygen line is vented by briefly opening the oxygen flow need1e valve. The noise from the engine will he quite high. but it is a good indicator of engine operation. The nitrogen purge valve is closed.

the amateur can begin to consider methods of measuring engine thrust. 18. Ignition and operation of small liquid-fuel rocket engines in the manner described offers the amateur a relatively safe and interesting activity. determining the heat transfer to the cooling water. and noting the characteristics of the rocket engine exhaust. After achieving initial operation of the engine and test stand. the amateur should always keep safety and safe operating procedures foremost in mind. To avoid this problem. Always inspect the engine and other components for damage. Photography of this exhaust is a definite challenge.16.) at low chamber pressures or low fuel injection velocities. the operator should rapidly increase the chamber pressure after initial introduction of the liquid fuel. The operator will quickly discover and use many procedures to improve engine and test stand operation. etc. Some engine designs may exhibit combustion instability (chugging. 59 . erratic combustion. A new ignitor will be required for each ignition attempt or firing. apparent overheating or hot spots prior to another firing. chuffing. 17. As these additional features are added to the experimental set-up. The ignitor assembly is partially consumed during the ignition process and residue is quickly blown from the combustion chamber upon ignition of the liquid fuel.

The noise of a rocket engine comes from the shearing action between the high velocity exhaust jet and the surrounding atmosphere. even a small one.THE LAW There are no known laws prohibiting the design or construction of rocket engines. 60 . is an extremely noisy device. If local ordinances permit testing in a populated area. the amateur should consider the effect of engine operation on his neighbors before the initial firing. a remote site may be needed. If ordinances prohibit local testing. However. rocket vehicles or accessories. Prior to actually firing a rocket engine the amateur builder should make certain that he is not violating established ordinances. However. this technique restricts viewing of the rocket exhaust plume and eliminates one of the unique features of rocket engine operation. The amateur builder should keep in mind that a rocket engine. certain communities do have laws prohibiting the operation of rocket motors or engines or the free flight of rocket powered vehicles. Ample quantities of water must be sprayed into the exhaust duct to rapidly cool the rocket exhaust stream and to protect the duct itself. in the United States. Some of the noise can be eliminated by firing the engine into a water-cooled duct.

. 335 Vanderbilt Avenue. McGraw Hill Book Company. Rocket Propulsion Elements.. V. New York.. 1964. H. Solid. Aerospace Propulsion. Foa. NY. latest edition. by Gordon J.. Elements of Flight Propulsion. Van Wylen. materials. New York. by R. Thermodynamics. Design of Liquid. Elsevier Publishing Company. by Dennis G. John Wiley & Sons. Los Angeles 26. Heat Transmission.. California. 1959. or design. Shepherd. New York 1959. and Hybrid Rockets. Inc. L..BIBLIOGRAPHY The reader is urged to consult any of the following books for further information relating to rocket engines. ISBN 71-190302.. Inc. 1960. McAdams. Elsevier Publishing Co. Inc. Inc. by J. by M. New York. 1966. McGraw-Hill Book Company. by W. 1972. New York. by George P. Netherlands 1960. New York. John Wiley & Sons. Sutton. Rocket Encyclopedia Illustrated. Inc. 61 . by Victor L. Hayden Book Co. John Wiley & Sons. Aero Publishers. 1965.. New York. Inc. Rocket Propulsion. Fluid Mechanics. Barrere and others. Peters. Inc. Streeter.

J. Stainless Steel Handbook.. published by Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp. F. published by Matheson. Alcoa Aluminum Handbooks published by Aluminum Company of America. by M. Prentice-Hall. Inc. Pa.. John Wiley & Sons.. 1959. by Laurson & Cox. 1966.Design of Machine Elements. 1959. N. New York. P.O. Spotts. Box 85 East Rutherford N.J. 62 . 1955. Pittsburgh.. Matheson Compressed Gas Data Book. Inc. 1955. Mechanics of Materials. Alcoa Handbook of Design Stresses for Aluminum. Pittsburgh 22.. Englewood Cliffs. published by Aluminum Company of America. Pittsburgh.

840-854 Folsom Street San Francisco.thermadyne. ask for a current price list and the name of the nearest supplier.LIST of SUPPLIERS The following list of suppliers is not complete since there are literally hundreds of companies in the United States manufacturing items of interest and use to the amateur rocket engine builder.asp?div=vec The Harris Calorific Co. Illustrated catalogs can be obtained by writing the companies listed below. Note: Those suppliers listed in the original text. California 94608 63 . have their company’s web site listed under their mailing address information.hoke.grove. 5501 Cass Avenue Regulators Grove Valve and Regulator Co. who are still around and now have a web site. 6 529 Hollis Street Victor Equipment Co. Ohio 44102 http://www. New Jersey 07626 Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill. California 94107 http://www. The reader is urged to consult his nearest city's telephone book Yellow Pages.

com/ Ball Valves Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill. East Foothill Blvd.hoke. 15655 Brookpark Road Cleveland Ohio 44142 Robbins Aviation. 3817 Santa Fe Avenue Excelsior Drive & Carmenita 64 Republic Manufacturing. & Craig Street Pasadena. New Jersey 07626 http://www.. California 90058 Circle Seal Products Co. New Jersey 07626 http://www. Co. 80x 489 Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill.Needle Valves Dragon Engineering Co. Inc. California 90650 http://www. lnc. O. California 91107 http://www.

hoke. Massachusetts 01605 http://www. 7 Lawrence Street Corporation 669 Lincoln Street Worcester. East Foothill Blvd. California 91107 http://www. Ohio 44142 Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Hydromatics. 15655 Brookpark Road Cleveland Ohio 44142 Check Valves Circle Seal Products Co. Republic Manufacturing Co. 15655 Brookpark Road Cleveland. New Jersey 07626 Republic Manufacturing Co. & Craig Street 65 . New Jersey 07003 http://www.hydromatics.. Inc.

com/ Relief Valves Circle Seal Products Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park O. New Jersey 07626 Microporous Filter Division Circle Seal Development Corp. P.Filters Purolator Products. California 91107 http://www. East Foothill Blvd & Craig Street 66 . New Jersey 07626 http://www. Inc. Inc. California 92803 http://www. New Jersey 07065 Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill. Box 3666 Anaheim.. 1000 New Brunswick Avenue Rahway.

1 Brook Road Newtown. Connecticut 06470 http://www. Illinois 60076 O-Rings Parker Seal Co. Inc. Connecticut 06602 United States Gauge Division American Machine & Metals. Connecticut Avenue & Hewitt Street Bridgeport. California 90230 http://www. 10567 Jefferson Blvd.mnrubber..marshbellofram.heise.parker. 67 . Minnesota 55416 Heise Bourdon Tube Co. 3501 Howard Street Skokie. Pennsylvania 18960 Marsh Instrument Co. Minnesota Rubber Co. 3628 Wooddale Avenue Minneapolis. Culver City.Pressure Gauges Helicoid Gage Division American Chain & Cable Co.

Ohio 44108 68 . 6300 West Howard Street Featherhead Co. Iowa 50265 Spraying Systems Co. Illinois 60648 http://www. California 90015 Spray Nozzle Delaval Manufacturing Co. 320 East 131st Street Tube Fittings Parker Tube Fittings Division Parker-Hannifin Corp. Inc. Box 15438 Los Angeles. Imperial-Eastman Corp. 3265 Randolph Street Bellwood. Ohio 44112 http://www. 319 West 17th Street P. Grand Avenue & 4th Street West Des Moines..imperial-eastman.parker. Illinois 60104 http://www.Crush Gaskets Gasket Manufacturing Co. 17327 Euclid Avenue Cleveland.

com/ 69 . Ohio 44140 Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill.Gas Cylinder Fittings Western Enterprises. 27360 West Oviatt Road P.hoke. Inc. New Jersey 07626 http://www. Box 9737 Bay Village. O.

1337 231 8.78) Temp (degF + 460) Temp (degF .8 1 5/9 To Obtain Horsepower Watts Cubic inches Gallons Inches Cubic feet Cubic inches Pounds water Feet Feet/sec Seconds Ounces Gallons Square inches Temp (deg F) Abs. Temp (deg R) Temp (deg C) 70 .32) by 0.467 60 16 0.1198 144 1.57 1728 7.CONVERSION FACTORS Multiply Btu/minute Btu/minute Cubic feet Cubic feet Feet Gallons Gallons Gallons water Miles Miles/hour Minute Pounds Pounds water Square feet Temp (degC + 17.02356 17.3453 5280 1.48052 12 0.

test and launch experimental rockets near you: Rocketry related software programs for MS 71 .org/faq/ Chat and discussion forums for experimental rocketry. and Palm PDAs: http://www. and still in print. Macintosh OS.rocketry. They should provide you with more up-to-date information and resources online. MS Windows. experimental rocketry and related texts and books are available online: http://www. high power rocketry (large solids and hybrids). Linux/ Many more current. and model rocketry: http://www. Mac OS X. For many more equipment suppliers: To find clubs and organizations that Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding experimental rocketry terminology and other helpful information: http://www.rocketry.rocketry.rocketry.ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES Note: Since this book originally came out in 1967 the following resources are listed for your convenience.rocketry.rocketry.

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